Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) on Monday agreed that “free-range grazing must be stopped. ”The NGF and MACBAN also resolved that night grazing should be banned henceforth, and that a standing committee be constituted in each state to ensure a harmonious relationship between herders and farmers.
These are part of the decision taken at a meeting of governors with MACBAN leadership and security agencies on “the emerging security challenges in the Southwest”. The meeting was held in Ondo, Akure, the state capital.
The meeting came after the expiration on Monday of the order given by Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu for herders to register or vacate the state’s forest reserves.
Chairman of the NGF Dr. Kayode Fayemi presided over the meeting attended also by the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF), Alhaji Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi State), Adegboyega Oyetola (Osun), Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and Alhaji Abdulkadir Badaru (Jigawa).
The MACBAN team was led by the National President, Alhaji Muhammadu Kirowa. Security chiefs at the meeting were led by the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 11, Olufemi Agunbiade.
A part of the communiqué reads: “That free-range grazing must be stopped to avoid conflicts between farmers and herders.
“Strengthening alternative security arrangements and making them complementary to the mainstream security agencies in Nigeria should be encouraged.
“MACBAN should embrace and be committed to modern breeding process by creating grazing reserves and practicing ranching to prevent cattle roaming about.
“Standing committee comprising of farmers, MACBAN and the government should be set up in each state (where they don’t exist) to ensure synergy and result.
“We must create economic opportunities for our people and reduce opportunities for criminalities in our country.”
“The order of the Ondo State governor was misconstrued and misrepresented by a section of the media. He only ordered those occupying the forest reserves in Ondo State illegally to quit.
“The meeting agreed that criminals should be apprehended and punished, no matter their origin, class, or status, and that security agencies … must step up their efforts in the fight.
“There is the need to build a partnership for peace and security with MACBAN and jointly wage war against criminality.
“No one had sent anyone away from any state or region but all hands must be on deck to fight criminality.
“MACBAN is a peace-loving, law-abiding organisation which does not habour or condone criminals.”
The governors and the association pledged commitment to the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria. They described insecurity as a national challenge that it is not peculiar to any tribe or region.
The meeting also agreed that “underage herding be banned” because it “is inimical to security.” It agreed that occupation of the Ondo State forest reserves is illegal and condemnable.
It was learnt that the extension of the deadline given to the herders to quit the Forest Reserves, was not discussed at the meeting.
Many of the herders staying in the forest are already leaving in droves.
Although the meeting was called by Southwest governors, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) showed interest because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“That was why governors Bagudu and Badaru came to attend and Fayemi, the NGF chairman, presided over the meeting, instead of Akeredolu, who is the Southwest governors forum chairman.
The meeting noted that “MACBAN also suffers insecurity and kidnapping and thus desire peaceful coexistence.”
It assured that the association was ready for any peaceful move by the states to engender security.
Fayemi had during the meeting urged MACBAN members not to have any fears of doing their legal business in any part of the country.
He reminded them that there were laws that must be obeyed and called for partnership in providing security for peace, progress and development of the country.
He said there was the need for all stakeholders to be tough on crimes and criminality which, according to him, members of MACBAN were also victims.
The governor reiterated that there was no eviction order for Fulani herdsmen in Ondo State or any part of the Southwest.
He said Akeredolu only directed that herders at government forest reserves must register or quit such areas.
Akeredolu explained that he never gave herdsmen ultimatum to leave the state.
He said it was the duty of herders to provide information to security agencies.
He said: “We have a duty to our people and everybody in the state. Can any governor ask anybody to leave the state? This is Nigeria. We have registered over 70, 000 farmers and they pay every year. If you are going to go there(forest reserves), then register.
“You owe a duty to pass information. Criminals should not be able to fester. We must protect our people. We will not play to the gallery. We can fight the security challenges together if we are prepared.
“Let us work together and flush out criminals. I have been under serious pressure. When the pressure is on us, it is as if we are doing nothing. Let us help ourselves. It is your duty to point them out.”
Governor Bagudu, who backed Governor Akeredolu’s order, said: “You cannot go and occupy somebody’s house without permission from him.”
He blamed the tension generated by the Ondo State governor’s order on improper communication and stressed the need for herders and security agencies to work together to check the activities of criminals.
The PGF chairman also called for Federal Government’s support for herdsmen to enable them embrace modern ranching.
He said: “Some of the tension we saw in the last week would have been needless. Media is a partner in progress. If we continue to cause agitation in our land, we compound our problems. The Fulani are pastoralists. Criminals, bandits, and other forms of crimes are visited on these hapless people who just want to live in peace.
“A lot of the complains that come from the DPOs (Divisional Police Officers) are from the Fulani either whose child has been kidnapped or cattle rustled.
“A criminal is a criminal. They have agreed to work with security agencies to fish out kidnappers and drug peddlers so that we can defeat the enemies of progress.”
Governor Makinde who advised that security should not be politicised, said those escalating the issues could not even run their families.
He said: “When people talk you wonder if they had done any kind of comparison with what has happened elsewhere in the world. We will not use criminality to solve another criminality.
“The intended consequences of such an action cannot be predicted. We will continue to encourage our people to work together to face the common enemy—the criminals, bandits and kidnappers.
“We will ensure we go after criminals. We will continue to promote good neighbourliness among our people.
The governor called on all stakeholders to work together to chase criminals out of Kisi area in Oyo State.
The MACBAN boss, Alhaji Kirowa, who pledged his members readiness to expose criminals, said herders were also victims of crimes
He specifically mentioned the latest incidents in Igangan (Oyo State) and the alleged kidnap of the son of one Alhaji Giye who resides in Gose, Akure North Local Government of Ondo State.
Kirowa also claimed that 10,000 pastoralists had been killed due to clashes with farmers and over five million cows lost by their members to criminals.
He called on governments at all levels to sanction the perpetrators of such acts against MACBAN members and provide immediate palliatives to the families that lost their loved ones and properties.
Kirowa clarified that Serikis- Fulani were appointed by traditional rulers in their respective states to make it necessary for them to work together.
He said a traditional ruler could remove any Seriki Fulani and direct Fulani herders to stop night and underage grazing.
The MACBAN leader added: “We are against the senseless acts of banditry and kidnapping across the country. We are directing members of our state executives to work with constituted security outfits.
“The security outfits must be designed to work with, all stakeholders as this will engender inclusiveness and peace.
“We are open to working with the forum (NGF) in designing what we think can work in solving these problems. We condemn all sorts of criminality, extrajudicial killings, and the impunity that is associated with it.
“Security agencies can testify how we work with them to arrest criminals.”